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Sea stars, anemones, and crabs, oh my! In this lesson, learn about the zone of the ocean where these creatures can be found. Discover some key characteristics and facts of this zone, then test your knowledge with a quiz.

Definition

If you have ever walked along the beach, wind blowing in your hair, maybe the sun setting in the background, and reached down to pick up a shell or sea star, you have interacted with the intertidal zone of the ocean.

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The intertidal zone is the area of the ocean between the high tide and low tide lines, usually on the beach at the water’s edge. If you think of the line created at high tide as the upper limit and the line created at low tide as the lower limit, the intertidal zone is everything between those lines.

Characteristics

The defining characteristic of the intertidal zone is that it is submerged with water during high tide and exposed to the air during low tide. The zone can take many forms, from sandy beaches to rocky cliffs. It is common for the intertidal zone to change frequently, since it is constantly battered by crashing waves.This changing nature of the zone makes it a somewhat harsh environment for living things.

Normally, environments on Earth are either completely dry or completely wet, but the fact that the intertidal zone is always changing leads to organisms that are uniquely adapted to live there.

Life

Common lifeforms found in the intertidal zone are sea stars, crabs, mussels, barnacles, and various corals. Many of these lifeforms are adapted to live part of their lives submerged in water and part of their lives exposed to open air.

A great example of how some organisms are adapted for this type of environment is in barnacles. Barnacles are submerged in water during high tide and are open, exposing parts that take in vital food and nutrients. Then, during low tide, the barnacles are exposed to the air and are closed, maintaining an interior environment in which they can survive. Otherwise, they would dry out when exposed to the open air.

Facts

The intertidal zone is one of the most biodiverse areas on Earth, meaning it has a huge number of different lifeforms that live there.

This biodiversity is what makes the zone so fascinating. Everywhere you look you can see a new and exciting creature or plant. This biodiversity is also good news for coastal economies, because a large variety of seafood is found in the intertidal zone.Apart from being full of life, the intertidal zone is also known for being one of the most varied environments on Earth.

It’s common for intertidal zones to look very different in different parts of the world. This is because the high tide and low tide of different parts of the world vary greatly. In areas with extreme differences in tides, the intertidal zone is huge. In areas with very small differences in tides, however, the intertidal zone can be quite small and have very few living things.

Lesson Summary

The intertidal zone is the area of the ocean between the high tide line and low tide line. During high tide, the intertidal zone is submerged with water and it is exposed to the open air during low tide. Because of this changing nature, the intertidal is a somewhat harsh environment for organisms to live in, which leads to many uniquely adapted creatures and plants.

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